Friday, June 5, 2015

Where the Action Happens

As technology has advanced, writers have changed how they write. With the advent of the typewriter, writers could decide whether they preferred clicking away at first drafts or scrawling them out by hand. When the computer came along, some purists still preferred the typewriter. Indeed, some writers have strong, and strange, relationships with theirs. (For example, Hunter S. Thompson used to shoot his in the snow.)  But even for those who ventured into the new digital age, word processers, such as Word Perfect and Microsoft Word, still ruled.

But, these days, we have an abundance of tools to get those words on the “page”! From Scrivener, to yWriter, to Writer’s Cafe, to Get Yarney, to Gingko, to….well, I could go on and on.
However, even with all those options, I still work in Microsoft Word. I’m the equivalent of the writer who clanks away at the typewriter while everyone else has personal computers. But Word seems to work for me. I use the headings and the comments to organize my scenes, random thoughts, and research. I’ve written three novels this way.

And yet, I constantly think, there has to be a better way. I love task managers (like Toodledo and Trello) and I’d love a platform that combines a good writing interface, organization/outlining, and a task system. Ideally, I’d open it up, and there would be a little message for me saying here are the four things you need to get done today. (e.g., write a first draft of scene 5, jot down thoughts on this character, swipe/revise scene 2, etc.) And, it must work easily across computers. But, alas, I haven’t found something like that yet. 

Maybe I need to come around to the fact that there isn’t a dream tool for me. Maybe I’m just looking for a platform that will make writing “easier,” when I have to just suck it up and realize sometimes writing is hard, regardless of where it happens? 

What are your thoughts? Where does the action happen for you? Have you found your dream writing tool? (And, most importantly, do you know of a tool that’s “in the cloud” that combines writing, outlining, and tasks…if so, tell me about it! :))

Dan: There do seem to be a lot of writing tools out there, and more crop up every day. It would be completely feasible for me to do almost everything in Word, particularly because that's how most people in publishing exchange documents and the Track Changes features are unparalleled. However, I've found a few other tools to be useful:

  • Scrivener is my main writing/editing tool. I keep my projects in a Dropbox folder so that they're backed up and accessible on all my devices.
  • Google Drive is useful for keeping shared documents in the cloud. I use the spreadsheets more than any other feature, to track things like submissions and deadlines.
  • TextWrangler is a plain-text editor. I'm a huge note-taker, and I keep all my notes in Dropbox folders, too. It's also useful to strip the formatting from text before pasting elsewhere.
  • Google Tasks lets me maintain checklists and sync them across devices. I love a good to-do list!
  • Scapple is a mind-mapping tool from the makers of Scrivener for jotting down and connecting ideas. It's fun to use, but has yet to become critical for me.

I'dd add to the wishlist for a perfect writing tool that it should leverage the cloud, but also maintain functionality even if you don't have an internet connection.

Lisa: You've stumped me. I don't have a "tool" that helps me with writing as far as programs, etc. goes. I outline on MS Word and write on MS word as well. Different stories have different folders for the various needs - character interviews, research notes, outlines, etc. I write and outline in a notebook too. So, I may be behind the times, but it keeps me afloat.

Karlie: I use mainly Microsoft word as well. I tried Scrivener for awhile, but found it didn't work as well for me as I had hoped. Caitlin, when you find a tool like the one you described, please let me know! :) I've tried several things but always ended up coming back to Word. I tend to do all my outlining, story planning, and character interviews on paper (such cave-like behavior, I know), but that's the way my thought processes work. 

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